ISE 2024 Wrap Up

EPISODE 134 | Guest: Brian Galante, founder and owner of Dimension PR

Integrated Systems Europe, the largest event of its kind anywhere, happened recently in Barcelona. We talk about some of the technologies and trends we saw there, as well as what these new innovations might mean for the future of audiovisual communications, workplace technologies and the return to office movement.

  • Discover the big themes and biggest wow factors at the show
  • Learn how sustainability is influencing the show and new products
  • Hear how AI and analytics are being integrated in to all types of AV/IT tech
  • Explore the surge in room sign and space booking technologies
  • Understand how interoperability and integration are shaping the industry

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Learn more about Integrated Systems Europe here.


Derek DeWitt: Very recently, the city of Barcelona, Spain, played host to ISE 2024. That’s Integrated Systems Europe, the largest audiovisual conference and exhibition in the world. I went there, as did my guest today, Brian Galante. He is the founder and owner of Dimension PR. And we’re gonna swap some observations about all the things that we saw there at the trade show, especially on the floor, giving us a little bit of insight into what’s coming down the pipeline and what the industry is talking about today. Thanks for talking to me, Brian. It was great to see you in Barcelona and see you at the show.

Brian Galante: Derek, always a pleasure. It was great to connect in person and thank you for having me on once again.

Derek DeWitt: Thank you. And thank you everybody out there for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. I remind you again that you may subscribe to the podcast, you can review us on IMDB, and you can follow along with a transcript of the conversation Brian and I are about to have on the Visix website under resources and podcasts.

So, Brian, ISE – biggest thing of its kind in the world. It was massive. I don’t even know how many halls there were for the expo. Eight, nine, ten, maybe more? I didn’t even get in all of them. Some of them were just audio. Like, it was, it was massive.

Brian Galante: I would agree. ISE 2024 simply felt like a huge show. I do believe they found the right home in the Fira de Barcelona, which has a more intelligent layout than the Amsterdam RAI and can accommodate the growing number of exhibitors and attendees.

Regarding the exhibition, there were two new halls which accommodated lighting and staging in hall 1 and content production and distribution in hall 4. These did not exist last year. That alone is somewhat mind boggling if you know the size of these halls already. Exhibitor numbers outperformed last year’s record with nearly 74,000 verified attendees. That’s pretty impressive.

Derek DeWitt: I think it’s safe to say trade shows are back.

Brian Galante: Oh yeah, yeah. And that was the refrain last year. And in some ways this year almost felt a little calmer than last year, but it still felt bigger. To put that in perspective, this year put ISE attendance above the NAB broadcast show in Las Vegas. That is a very impressive feat and just goes to show how much this event has grown.

There was a noticeable difference in approach on the floor this year. 2023, that was the big return, with the whizzbang flash of the new innovations that were idling for years due to the pandemic. This was a year of finetuning and moving the needle. There were new products, but this felt like the year where exhibitors were more focused on refining their renovations for the needs of the market.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, I think that’s actually fair to say. I noticed a lot of booths had similar things that they were talking about. One of the big things you saw a lot about was sustainability. Obviously, on the electronics side that comes to things that have battery power and EPS signs and things like this.

But even the booth designs themselves kind of sent out a, I mean, I hope it’s not a greenwashing signal, but certainly a sustainable signal, where many of them were made out of, not laminated plastic walls and things like this, but actually just bare unvarnished wood, or even made out of recycled and recyclable materials themselves. And there were a lot of plants in a lot of booths. It kind of had this whole idea of yes, we’re all focused on the sustainability side of things even though we’re in the electronics business and we gobble up power.

Brian Galante: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Sustainability was a huge, huge theme last year at ISE. I didn’t see it so much out in front as a theme. It was more of an activity. So, they took last year’s prominence of it, and they actually put their money where their mouths are, I guess you could say. And I did notice that in many of the booth designs. And I would also say that in terms of the products itself, things like Power over Ethernet go a long way in that sustainability message. And we’re seeing more of that in a number of new products this year.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s for sure. And of course, you know, the thing that’s on everybody’s minds in the tech sectors today is AI, AI, AI. And I did see “AI” written in a lot of places, but for the most part it seemed to be about control systems, and specifically for smart homes, which by extension, I guess you could say includes the smart workplace and things like this. But it really seemed to be about temperature controls, lighting controls, things like this. This seems to be where in this industry AI is initially getting implemented.

Brian Galante: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. And, you know, the explosion of AI has just been, you know, nothing short of incredible. I forget the exact moment where ChatGPT was introduced, but it wasn’t long ago, certainly within the last two years or so. And just the number of applications for AI that have come forth to market, both in this industry, in adjacent industries like broadcast, and of course the consumer area and so forth, it’s really quite mind boggling. In AV, I think you nailed it, a lot of it is really on the control side. To that end, seeing more voice-powered AI.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah.

Brian Galante: I did come across a very interesting AI application in the digital signage hall. As always, the presentation of dynamic visual content on displays and video walls were everywhere in that hall. But AI continues to spread throughout the digital signage universe. Again, it’s true that you see it more on the control side of things, but this is sort of convergence of control with digital signage. This was a voice ordering system for kiosks and menu boards. And I think we’re gonna be seeing more of that as QSRs and so forth really begin to reimagine their drive-thru systems.

As always, there were video walls and displays all over hall 6, but what’s really interesting to me is how important the business side of digital signage is becoming. Just like AI analytics is something that is pretty much penetrating every form of the business world. Basically, businesses that are rolling out digital signage, visual presentation’s important, but maybe just not enough anymore. They want to know how it’s performing with audiences.

And we see more digital signage companies getting into the analytics game to not only understand how content is performing with audiences, but also to gather demographics and other information to basically trigger automated targeted content delivery. That’s how you really start to gain traction with your audience.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I also think eventually we’re see the two last things we just talked about, AI and analytics, we’re gonna see them start to feed each other. Because as people start to gather that demographic information about the people who are using their systems or their audience or even just who walks by their screens and lingers, using cameras and sensors and other IoT things that are becoming increasingly out of the box even, we’re gonna use that data to feed and train AIs, to be able to then sort of come up with ways to personalize and specifically target that persona.

That’s how it’ll start. It’ll be like, okay, the AI says this person standing in front of the sign is in this category, and it has 150 or 200 categories. Eventually, it’ll become personalized to the actual individual human. But until then we’re gonna see a really interesting transitional period, I think.

Brian Galante: You speak words of wisdom, and I want to subscribe to your newsletter.

Derek DeWitt: You know, it’s interesting that you mention drive-thru Quick Service Restaurant stuff. I saw a lot of menu boards, and I did notice some that, like you said, with voice and so on, that now the digital menu board is starting to extend and create, how do you create an interactive menu board for a drive-through? Obviously with voice. You don’t wanna do it with touch, ’cause people are leaning out their window and, you know, everybody’s a different height, but voice makes a lot of sense there.

And I was talking to one person who, ’cause I was saying, okay, well what if it’s, you know, near a highway and it’s super noisy? And he said, honestly, you could, if you wanted to, you could actually create just this plastic or wood or whatever enclosure that minimizes outside interfering sounds and helps make the voice-activated interaction better.

Brian Galante: Cannot disagree with that. And I can say working with a company that basically manufactures structures for menu boards and with companies like Samsung that do the displays and digital signage software companies of all flavors, that is an enormous business right now in the United States. I know another client of mine that is working with, let’s just say one of the largest Spanish-flavored QSRs in the United States.

Derek DeWitt: Ah, yes. I think that rings a “bell”. Yes.

Brian Galante: Yes, absolutely! And they have somewhere north of 2000 projects that they’re doing for this company right now. So, menu boards is huge. And we are absolutely seeing the AI element infiltrate the menu board ecosystem through voice powering and so forth.

Derek DeWitt: Right. I also saw a lot of, it’s interesting that DOOH, Digital Out Of Home, was such a buzz word on a lot of booths. And I saw a lot more small-scale outdoor digital signs. I remember when I went to ISE many years ago in Amsterdam, there was this one hall that they were really focusing on digital billboards and stuff for outdoors, which obviously have to be brighter and they’re not nearly as crisp and clean, you know, the pixels are more like pegs because they’re designed to be seen from a great, great distance away.

This time I saw a lot of these, like, little kind of standup digital signs, maybe even call them kiosks, but they were on wheels. They were all weatherproofed. The frame around them were hardened. The wheels were nice and sturdy. And the idea being that you could roll them wherever you needed to, outside of a mall, on a street, wherever. And many of them have been hardened to such a point that they can actually take quite a bit of physical abuse and still function, still be interactive.

Brian Galante: Oh, absolutely! Most of these systems are IP56 rated, which really protects them from outside intrusions like water and dirt and other items that might get inside the system otherwise.

Derek DeWitt: Disgruntled customers.

Brian Galante: Disgruntled customers, yes, yes, exactly. But no, you’re absolutely right. I mean, you know, just like digital menu boards, kiosks have been huge over the last few years. You know, certainly we’ve been seeing them on college campuses, in hospitals for wayfinding, for so forth, but now they’re getting, you know, they’re getting very creative in their ergonomics.

The wheeled kiosk, quite interesting. Things like curbside ordering, there’s so many things that you can do with this technology and out-of-home media, that is the ability to really monetize these along with whatever business purpose that the kiosk itself has.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, for sure. Something else we noticed was that many vendors, and I mean 20% or higher of the vendors, big and small, had some kind of room sign in some way, shape or form. Some of them were quite big, some of them were quite small. Some of them were similar to ones that Visix uses and sells. And I also saw an increase in the variety of the electronic paper signs. I saw some that were bigger. I don’t know if you saw any of the color ones. Did you see some of those color EPSs?

Brian Galante: I saw booking technologies everywhere. And yes, I did see those. Very, very interesting, for sure.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, the colors are phenomenal. They’re crisp and clean. The problem is, everyone I talked to, I guess the technology still has a ways to go, is when you change the image. ‘Cause it takes 20, 25 seconds to change that image, ’cause it has to feed in yellow and then blue and then red, and it looks like the sign is malfunctioning while it’s going through that change. But once all the colors get locked in there, they look great. But the black and white EPS signs, I mean, I saw some that were, I’m not kidding, maybe slightly bigger than a postage stamp.

Brian Galante: Mm-hmm.

Derek DeWitt: So tiny and so flexible. And it really struck me that, so you have these dinky winky little EPS signs, and every size in between, every size you could possibly imagine up to the size of a computer monitor and even bigger. And you also have these wheeled kiosks and all this. And it’s almost like, once we perfect the ability to send not just content signals and stuff from the CMS to the digital signage player wirelessly, but once we can somehow get wireless electricity, digital signage is, it doesn’t have to be on a wall anywhere. It could be anywhere.

Brian Galante: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s funny, if you look at the workplace movement, they said that 2023 was the year of the return to office movement. 2024 is here and apparently this is the real actual year of the movement.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, okay. Yeah. Or next year if it doesn’t happen this year.

Brian Galante: Yes, exactly. Who knows what’s gonna happen in 2025. Regardless, workplace technology companies were absolutely everywhere this year. Most of them situated in hall 2, which was a very busy hall, by the way. There are a number, a growing number of companies offering not only room signs, but all sorts of these different booking technologies on software side. The real innovation seems to be in the hotdesking movement. I saw one very interesting demonstration that powered desk height adjustments directly from the booking hardware.

To give Visix some love here, I think Visix has really carved out a space of their own with Choros. I still did not see anything like Choros on the floor. That ability to go direct from the user device, amplified with an AR environment and without being chained to an app, is really quite special.

Overall, coming out of this show, I kind of see the workplace technology movement almost aligned with where digital signage software was about 15 years ago. It’ll be interesting to see how the space evolves, because we’re beginning to see an overabundance of companies that specialize in workplace in booking solutions, in my opinion, of course. And I saw that years ago with digital signage.

And I do think this is going to become a case where the strong will survive, the weaker players start to fade out, and in the middle, there’ll be this ripe area of consolidation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the bigger industry players that aren’t in this space yet start to make some strategic acquisitions in the workplace space.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, it kind of, it’s all of a piece. In the workplace stuff, it’s about managing spaces, office hoteling, hotdesking and so on, like you said. And in the home and smart control systems thing, it’s really kind of the same thing. It’s all going to the phone. It’s all somehow being tied to your phone or a tablet or this, so that you don’t have to, you can use it on the fly. I can be off doing my stuff, walking around my office building, you know, I’m up on the third floor, I gotta deal with something on that floor, but in the meantime, I can still schedule something in a meeting room on the second floor and all this.

And it, like you said, I did see some app-based control systems and space booking systems like Choros, but I made a point to ask every single person, but you do have to download the app? And they were like, oh, yeah. And I was like, not with Choros you don’t!

Brian Galante: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, it’s really interesting, this whole meeting space environment is still huge. You know, so you have the booking solution, obviously outside the meeting space, but inside the meeting space, you know, this technology is still transforming. You know, with hybrid work, training, learning here to stay, you need those booking solutions, those room signs on the outside. Inside, it’s all about efficient management of signals, and bringing the physical and remote together.

In 2022, for example, was all about equipping these meeting and learning spaces with video cameras, so that the remote could see the instructor or the presenter. Here at ISE, I found it was about improving USB integration and scaling AV distribution. So, USB-C extension was all the rage; basically, due to enhanced connectivity between USB hubs and peripherals.

Audio is also very interesting inside the meeting space. And companies like Sennheiser and Xilica have really come a long way with beamforming, microphone technology, digital signal processors, technologies that really help people hear presentations in lectures clearly, both inside the classroom and remotely.

Derek DeWitt: I also saw quite a number of very fancy lecterns and podiums.

Brian Galante: Mm-Hmm.

Derek DeWitt: You know, with microphones and digital screens integrated into them. One company had not only a digital screen for the presenter, you know, instead of having just, you know, a place to put your notebook, but they actually had screens on the outside of the podium facing the audience, and a whole system where the person giving the lecture could be showing pictures and video and all. And I thought, my gosh, boy, we’ve come a long way from, you know, the 19th-century lecture, where the professor way down there, and you hope you can hear ’em. It was really impressive.

Brian Galante: Yeah, we really have. And you know, these sorts of, in broadcast we call them glue products, you know, switchers, routers, things really holding all this signal distribution together in enabling presenters to, you know, basically trigger these visuals on demand. All these solutions are getting smaller and more compact and easily integratable inside the lectern.

And, you know, that I find really interesting as far as the lectern. So, you know, whereas in the past you might have had a big rack in an IT closet or somewhere in the corner of a room, you know, very poorly hidden, now systems are getting to the point where they’re packing so much power into, you know, a highly-dense, highly-compact, you know, little half rack unit. You know, very easy to just fit right inside a lectern. I find that really interesting, too.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah. People were saying, oh, this’ll be, this’ll be the return to office year. And yet quite a few companies had very large video conferencing setups. There was one company, I mean, it was, I think it was like four rows of 16 across. It was huge. It was probably 15 feet long, slightly curved. So, you could actually have 64 people all on the same work call video conference call. It’s so big that you could have a whole room full of people and everybody would be able to see everybody on the screen.

You know how it is now, you’re using your home computer, and you get more than 10 people and you’re just like, you either can’t see everybody at the same time, or they’re so small that it’s difficult to make them out. It makes it especially difficult when you’re doing things like something Visix does every year is they have a Halloween costume contest. Which is great, except that you’re like, I can’t see the details, ’cause it’s so tiny. But on giant, sort of, video conferencing walls like this, it would be no hassle at all.

Brian Galante: Right on. You know what, I expect an invitation to this party next year…

Derek DeWitt: Ha!

Brian Galante: You know? No, that’s really interesting. And you know, I think there’s corporate posturing – we all want you back in the office as of next month. And I think there’s the reality of the situation, that people are, you know, not so fast. So, they have to be prepared for hybrid environments, and they’ve invested in the technology, they might as well use it. I think it’s still gonna be a very mixed bag for many years. And remote work is here to stay. It’s not going away.

You know, even if, you know, the return to office movement does take shape, I still don’t think you’re gonna see an overwhelming number of companies demanding five days in the office. So, I think that these technologies have a long life ahead of them, and I think there’s a lot of room for innovation to make that hybrid environment continue to be something that everyone can have faith in.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And more importantly, I think that… I like the term hybrid the best of all the phraseologies out there, because, like we’re saying with, hey, we’ve got digital signs that are small, we’ve got ones that are big, we’ve got ’em on wheels, we’ve got things that have Power over Ethernet (or not, as you want). We’ve got these lecterns that have a whole bunch of bells and whistles, which you can use or not, as you see fit. And the same with coming into the office or not coming into the office.

It seems to me that this personalization trend is not just about companies targeting, you know, Joe Blow walking past the sign and like we all saw in the movie “Minority Report”, hey, scan the retina, did you enjoy your t-shirts? But it’s kind of almost like a buffet of, well, what do you want to do? Because you can do it. We now have the technology, and we have the, like you said, people have invested in this technology already, so that they can hotdesk and hotel and reserve spaces and come in, do video conferences from time to time and so on.

And it allows companies to hire from a much broader collection of potential employees, now the whole world, you know, provided you’re not say 12 hours off time-zone-wise. But otherwise, it just seems to me like there are more options available to us and these technologies have enabled that.

Brian Galante: No, that’s a great point. I honestly have nothing else to add to that wisdom.

Derek DeWitt: To me, that’s always been the, maybe it’s ’cause I, you know, was born and raised in a consumer capitalist society, but to me the definition of freedom has always been choice.

Brian Galante: Agreed. 100%. Interoperability is a huge theme right now. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the IPMX suite of open standards, but it appears to be nearing ratification. And what it is, is it’s basically an interoperable set of standards to really help companies unify their products and solutions over IP networks. Companies like Magik are bringing components to market to help manufacturers develop open standards products for use on interoperable IP networks.

That, to me, is a wow factor, because it’s helping end users and integrators and all these people in our industry unify their systems over IP. That’s gonna be important as the transition from legacy to IP continues. The most visually impressive item that I saw was from LG.

Derek DeWitt: I know what you’re gonna say!

Brian Galante: Oh, yeah! It was a 20-foot-tall DVLED display with rotating panels that would move in and out and literally breathe life into content. It was really quite something, a showstopper that clogged the aisles. How it gets used in the real world, who knows? But it sure looked cool.

Derek DeWitt: It did look cool. And so, people understand, this was called the Kinetic Board. It was very big, incredibly bright. You know, and this is in a hall filled with these massive 8K video displays, which I had never seen. I’d never seen an 8K display before in person, so I kind of went, oh, that’s what the big deal is.

This was incredibly clean, incredibly crisp. But it’s made up of a bunch of small squares that are on, I don’t know what the system is, but they can move in and out, and they can move in and out in a way that is coordinated. So that, for example, a transition from one image to another isn’t just a flat thing. The squares, the sections of the screen actually come out and move, and they kind of move altogether. I don’t know if you sat through the whole video presentation that they had.

Brian Galante: I did not. And unfortunately, I just don’t have that luxury of time at these shows, because I’m pretty much bouncing somewhere every 15 minutes for another press interview. But I can say just even in those fleeting moments that I walked by, it really was quite something to behold.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I think the most interesting thing they did was at the end, ’cause you’re looking at it and you’re going, oh, that’s really cool and pretty, and wow, that’s really fun. And you know, you want to take video from the side to show the panels coming in and out. And then at the very end, they did this kind of Las Vegas Americana collage of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, for some reason, maybe, maybe, and the Las Vegas sign (I don’t know what they were really going for there, maybe because New York, New York is in Las Vegas and because the Paris Hotel is in Vegas, maybe that was the idea).

But the Eiffel Tower, so the Eiffel Tower takes up the middle of the image, and the parts of the screen where that is stuck out further than the rest of it. The face on the Statue of Liberty stuck out physically further from the background of the rest of the screen. And then they had little fireworks going off, and when the fireworks went off, in the middle of the fireworks, those small panels would temporarily come out and then fade back as the image of the light of the fireworks faded. And suddenly I thought, oh, there you go. Now it’s not just, oh, isn’t this kind of a cool thing; they’re actually integrating it into the actions on screen.

And then after that it fades away. And it was actually the most beautiful thing they did, they just had this sort of glowing golden sand pouring out in a small line from the top, and a bunch of panels came out in the center, and it looked like the sand was hitting those extended panels and bouncing off and pooling at the bottom of it. (Watch a video here.)

And suddenly I thought, wow, now we’re integrating it into almost like a story. And that’s what my wife said, ’cause like you talked about this, and we both said the same thing, when the heck would you ever use it? Deb said, it’s almost like digital signage as entertainment.

Brian Galante: There you go. And we all need a little more entertainment in our lives, correct?

Derek DeWitt: That’s true. That’s very true. I also saw these sort of transparent micro LED things, which is basically, it’s a pretty high-def screen, quite long. The one I saw, it’s a long, not very high, but really, really long screen that kind of wraps around the sides of the small box, the box that it’s inside. So, it gives you this kind of feeling like you’re in a sports stadium, is what they were showing. So, it’s kind of like, if I were in the stadium in a seat off to the side, this would be kind of like what I see.

But in front of this, there’s a transparent panel. The transparent panels are also screens. And so, like a player did an interesting move of some kind, they had a great play. And on the transparent screen, it would kind of come up and overlay over the image you’re seeing, and you would get statistics and you’d see a replay and all this.

It was kind of like, I wonder if they’re gonna try and find a way to integrate this stuff into actual live sporting events, so that you would almost have the experience, say, going to an American football game in the stands that you have watching it on TV. ‘Cause when you watch it on TV, you get all the, the little squiggles, and the this and the that, and the instant replay, and the closeups and did he punch him in the face, or did he not, I can’t see. It was, I thought it was just a, it’s early days, but I think there’s a lot of potential for this technology.

Brian Galante: Due, I’m sold.

Derek DeWitt: I’m gonna buy one right now. So yeah, there was a ton of interesting stuff. And like Brian said, some of it was flashy, but a lot of it really was about companies trying to help other companies solve problems and integrate things together so that things are easier, a bit more user-friendly, more integrated and… Just, it’s almost like the technologies, these separate technologies, are very slowly though not that slowly, but very slowly, almost coming together to become a technology, if you know what I mean.

Brian Galante: I do. I go every year, and I look forward to it. I do wish it were a month later, it comes a little quick after the holiday, but it really is an excellent show. This is where the action happens. That’s not to slight InfoComm. InfoComm is an important show, but I believe that ISE has become the show where the big things happen. So, if you’re in this industry, it’s a show that you must attend. So, I’ll be going every year, and I will be building two days in Lisbon in advance every year, because that city rocks.

Derek DeWitt: It’s a great… I used to live there, it’s a fantastic city. And you know, Barcelona’s no shambles either.

Brian Galante: I enjoyed my time in Barcelona, and I look forward to going back.

Derek DeWitt: Excellent. All right. Well thank you to my guest, Brian Galante. He is the founder and owner of Dimension PR and, talking about our separate and shared experiences at Integrated Systems Europe 2024, that’s ISE 24, which occurred at the end of January and beginning of February in Barcelona, Spain, as it does every year.

Last February, we had a conversation about that year’s ISE and well, since, as he said, this is where things happen, we most likely will do it again next February.

Thanks for talking to me, Brian, always interesting.

Brian Galante: Thank you for having me again. I look forward to next time, and I look forward to hopefully seeing you in Prague before next ISE.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, well, we’re here. We’re here for a while, though I think Deb’s going to InfoComm and I don’t think I am. Vegas and I broke up with each other a long time ago.

Brian Galante: I wouldn’t go back if I didn’t have to.

Derek DeWitt: I hear ya. But InfoComm is a pretty darned interesting show.

Brian Galante: It sure is.

Derek DeWitt: All right. Again, thank you to Brian for talking to me today, and thank you everybody out there for listening. Don’t forget that you can read a transcript of the conversation we’ve just had on the Visix website.